Government is at the preliminary stage of developing a policy which will allow for some of its buildings in the World Heritage Property area to be leased to the private sector at minimal cost.

This disclosure came today from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as he delivered the feature address at the opening of the Fourth Caribbean Urban Forum at Accra Beach Hotel, under the theme: Placemaking.

Mr. Stuart told his audience: ???As part of the agreement, within a specified time period, the lessee will be required to bring the building back into an economic use with a lease for between 20 to 25 years, after which it will be returned to Government at a ???peppercorn??? rate.???

He identified this initiative as but one of the innovative measures which the Government would put in place to upgrade the quality of the building stock within the Historic Property and to create opportunities for employment.

The Prime Minister said that in order for Bridgetown to realise its full potential as a World Heritage City, there was a need for urban renewal of the housing stock.

Acknowledging that housing conditions are an essential element of standard of living, he promised: ???We will continue, therefore, to pursue better housing conditions for the households in our urban area, as it relates to the actual quality of the housing or to proper access to infrastructure, since my administration does not subscribe to the view that there should be second class citizens in this nation.???

Mr. Stuart disclosed that the Investment Division of the Ministry of Finance, at the request of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, was spearheading a multi-sectoral Working Group to see how best they could channel limited resources to effect this change.

???But, even as we explore these possibilities, we must acknowledge that there is a vacancy rate of almost 10 per cent in our urban sector, which is clearly unsatisfactory in a country where the provision of affordable housing remains a primary goal, and indeed, a major challenge.

???We, therefore, intend to work with owners of unused and abandoned properties, most of which are located in the Greater Bridgetown Area, so that a partnership can be developed for the return of these properties to the housing market,??? he declared.

Prime Minister Stuart expressed the view that the restoration of some of the historic buildings was yet another area in which the polytechnic and skills training centres could be used to pass on new skills to the youth.

He contended that these trained young people would then become ???craftsmen of their fate???.

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